by Alex Francis
When the motivation to clean your house hits, it can be hard to suppress the urge to grab the biggest garbage bin you can find, dump everything in it, and be done with it—and with spring right around the corner, we know that plenty of people are getting ready to do just that. And who can blame them? There’s just something about seeing empty space where there once was clutter that’s oddly therapeutic.
There’s just one problem, though. While throwing everything away in one fell swoop may be good for your own personal state of mind, it can have some pretty detrimental effects on the environment. Since some common household waste is hazardous, it’s for the best that you take the time to dispose of it properly.
For example, rechargeable batteries are made with hazardous chemicals that, when improperly disposed of, can pollute water sources or leach lead and acid out of landfills and into the ground. Because of this, many states have passed laws concerning their disposal and recycling. To find a location near you that recycles rechargeable batteries, check out Call2Recycle.
As far as other household waste goes, here are a few commonly disposed-of items that can (and should) be recycled.
Like rechargeable batteries (which a lot of electronics contain—they often need to be recycled separately), electronics should be kept out of landfills, because they are liable to leak toxic substances into the ground. And beyond that, they are made with valuable resources like gold, silver, and copper that can and should be repurposed or recycled. Programs like Cash for Electronic Scrap USA will give you money in return for your unwanted electronics, or you can find locations to donate your devices on the EPA’s website.
If you have any paint cans hanging around from past projects, don’t pour it down the drain or drop it in the trash. First, check if it’s latex or oil-based. With latex paint, leave the top off and let the paint dry out completely. Only once it’s dry is it safe to put the can in a bin to be recycled. Oil-based paint is a lot more dangerous and must be taken directly to your local Household Hazardous Waste collection center.
Leaving expired or unneeded medicine in a trashcan poses a threat to curious children and other people who seek to find treasure in others’ trash, but due to potential water contamination, flushing it all down the toilet isn’t the best idea, either. To find out if it’s safe to flush your medication, check the FDA’s list here. Alternatively, the US Drug Enforcement Administration regularly hosts drug take-back days to facilitate the proper disposal of medications. (The next national take-back event in on April 27.)
4. Single-use Batteries
Just like their rechargeable counterparts, single-use batteries contain dangerous materials like lead and acid that can pollute our water and contaminate our ground; therefore, single-use batteries should never be thrown in the trash. In addition to a local Household Hazardous Waste center, many electronics retailers, such as Best Buy and Circuit City, have convenient battery-recycling kiosks at their stores
5. Wine Corks
Cork is biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be tossed out. Organizations like ReCORK by Amorim and Cork ReHarvest (who partnered with Whole Foods Markets to put collection bins in most of their US stores) will gladly take your corks off your hands and put them to good use.
For any and all other recycling questions and concerns that you may have, Earth911.com is a fantastic resource to utilize. And for an easy way to recycle old hard drives, cell phones, and other electronic scrap (and make cash doing it!) contact Cash for Electronic Scrap USA!